For nearly 40 years, the Chippendale School has welcomed students to our workshops with hopes of turning their dreams of starting fine furniture making careers into a reality.
Whether it’s someone straight out of university who’s had a change of heart, or a mid-life career changer looking for a new challenge, our students each have a unique backstory and all share a love of woodworking.
Katie Richter is a graduate from our 2022/23 Professional Course. After leaving a demanding job, Katie wanted to pursue woodworking so she could reclaim a work-life balance while doing something she loved.
We spoke to Katie to find out why furniture making is her passion and how she has found life since graduating from our school.
What led you to the Professional Course and why you decided to enrol?
“My desire to create using wood, and a love of working to really high standards and doing the best work that I can, made fine furniture making the perfect fit. Chippendale’s emphasis on helping you start your own business, along with its word class reputation, made their Professional Course particularly appealing.”
How has life been since graduating last year? What were you doing prior to the Professional Course and how does it compare to your life now?
“Before this I was an outdoor adventure instructor. I loved many aspects of my job but the hours were long and unpredictable, and I missed being able to create and make with my hands. It has definitely had an impact on my current work though, and my style.
“For example, I’m part way through making a canoe paddle. Being self-employed is hard at times, but I have really enjoyed the freedom to dictate my own hours, so they work with my lifestyle instead of having to sacrifice it for work.”
What is your furniture making style and the kinds of pieces you make?
“I would say my style is fairly simple. Simple shapes and a real emphasis on showing off the natural beauty of the wood. Using unusual, or lesser seen woods, is a great passion of mine.
“A lot of my inspiration will come from things I see in nature. This is my personal style, but my job requires that I can adapt and design based on what the client wants and not my own preferences, which I have done since graduating.”
Who are some of your woodworking inspirations?
“I don’t really have one source of inspiration. When designing I like to look at a wide range of things that have been done, from Instagram and Pinterest to the National Museum of Scotland. I find that not having too many other peoples’ designs in my head helps me to be freer to discover my own unique style.”
What do people say when you tell them what you do? Are they surprised or intrigued?
“People are usually quite surprised but think it’s very cool.”
What has been your experience of working at Myreside Studios so far?
“Working at Myreside has been a hugely positive experience. It is brilliant to be surrounded both by people that are learning and growing alongside you, and those who are much further along the road.
“There is always someone I can go to for help who has many years of experience, but equally those of us who have graduated together can talk things through, bounce ideas around, and discuss options. We all have different strengths and weaknesses, and we help one another. Also, the banter is wonderful and means there is never a dull moment in the workshop!”
What has been your biggest learning since graduating last year?
“That I’m capable of more than I think. With each job I take on I have doubts in my abilities, but each time I complete a job I become more confident in what I can do. I’ve also learned that I don’t have to do it all on my own – it’s OK to ask for help and people are usually more than willing to give it.”
What would you say to anyone contemplating their own career path change? Any advice?
“Count the cost. Take the risk as the potential rewards are massive but know the reality of what you’re doing. Success won’t be immediate or certain, but you will gain confidence, learn so much about yourself, and be welcomed into the most fun and supportive community of woodworkers.”
Many thanks to Katie for speaking with us – you can find Katie on Instagram @riversandrootsfurniture
The Professional Course has been helping people begin their fine furniture making journeys since 1985. If you too dream of making woodworking your career, then this could be the course for you!
Our 2023/24 Professional Course is now full, but you can still sign up for the waiting list to be first in line for next year’s class.